Ravens and Crows

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Ravens are considered the most intelligent of birds, on par with the smartest non-avian animals on earth, including dolphins and primates. John K. Terres suggests that Corvidae, or corvids--crows, ravens, and magpies--possess "the highest degree of intelligence" of any birds.

The raven, sacred to Apollo, was regarded as prophetic. In Norse mythology, Odin had two ravens, Hugin and Munin, who flew out each day and reported back to the god all that they had seen. Odin was called Hrafna-gud, or "God of the Raven."

The crow features prominently in Native American mythology. Roger Williams wrote in 1643 of the reverence of the Algonquins fro crows. In the Pacific Northwest, the Kwakiutl and Haida leadership clan is known as the Raven Clan, with Raven Priests. They speak of great leaders who were guided by crows and ravens. Among the Chipeweyan of eastern Canada, crow is a trickster, while the Navaho refer to missionaries as crows, because of their black robes.

The Greeks and Romans believed that crows could predict the weather. Similarly, the raven was sometimes regarded by the Greeks as a "thunderbird" because of its ability to presage a storm. An old Irish saying, "to have raven's knowledge," means to have an oracular ability to see and know all things. In Wales it was common custom to doff one's hat at the sight of a crow.

In England, ravens are still kekpt in official capacity at the Tower of London. It is said that as long as they remain, England will never fall to her enemies. Crows and ravens are believed to have very long life, and in his Metamorphoses, Ovid speaks of the witch Medea injecting the veins of the elderly Jason with the blood of a crow that had outlived nine generations of men. In Tebet, the raven is the messenger of the supreme being.

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